ShareThis Page
Nation

S.C. governor, lawmakers from both parties back removal of Confederate flag from state grounds

| Monday, June 22, 2015, 10:00 p.m.
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 22:  South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (2nd R) and other  lawmakers and activists, delivers a statement to the media asking that the Confederate flag be removed from the state capitol ground on June 22, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Debate over the flag flying on the capitol grounds was kicked off after nine people were shot and killed during a prayer meeting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Getty Images
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 22: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (2nd R) and other lawmakers and activists, delivers a statement to the media asking that the Confederate flag be removed from the state capitol ground on June 22, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Debate over the flag flying on the capitol grounds was kicked off after nine people were shot and killed during a prayer meeting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

CHARLESTON, S.C. — South Carolina's governor declared Monday that the Confederate battle flag should be removed from the Statehouse grounds as she acknowledged that its use as a symbol of hatred by the man accused of killing nine black church members has made it too divisive to display in such a public space.

Gov. Nikki Haley's about-face occurs just days after authorities charged Dylann Storm Roof, 21, with murder. The white man appeared in photos waving Confederate flags and burning or desecrating U.S. flags, and purportedly wrote of fomenting racial violence. Survivors told police he hurled racial insults during the attack.

“The murderer now locked up in Charleston said he hoped his actions would start a race war. We have an opportunity to show that not only was he wrong, but that just the opposite is happening,” Haley said, flanked by Democrats and Republicans, blacks and whites who joined her call.

“My hope is that by removing a symbol that divides us, we can move our state forward in harmony, and we can honor the nine blessed souls who are now in Heaven,” Haley said.

The massacre inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has suddenly made removing the flag — long thought politically impossible in South Carolina — the go-to position, even for conservative Republican politicians.

Haley was flanked by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, now running for president, as well as South Carolina's junior Republican senator, Tim Scott, and Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn. Within moments, her call was echoed by the Republican Party chairman and the top GOP lawmaker, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Haley urged the state's GOP-led House and Senate to debate the issue no later than this summer. If not, she said she will call a special session and force them to resolve it. “I will use that authority for the purpose of the legislature removing the flag from the Statehouse grounds,” she said.

South Carolina House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford says he's confident after talking to members of both parties that the Confederate flag will be taken down within the next two months.

“A lot of people understand this is a moment we have to respond to,” said Rep. Rick Quinn, a Republican and former House majority leader who said he will vote to take it down.

Making any changes to the banner requires a two-thirds supermajority in both houses under the terms of a 15-year-old deal that moved it from atop the Statehouse to a position next to a monument to Confederate soldiers out front.

The push for change resonated outside the state.

In Mississippi, House Speaker Philip Gunn said that the Confederate battle emblem is offensive and needs to be removed from the state flag. He is the first top-tier Republican to call for a change in the flag, which has had the symbol in the upper left corner since Reconstruction.

“We must always remember our past, but that does not mean we must let it define us,” Gunn, a leader in his local Baptist church, said in a statement.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant repeated his long-held position that the state should keep the flag as is.

In Tennessee, Craig Fitzhugh, the state House Democratic leader, said a a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and an early Ku Klux Klan leader, must be removed from its place outside the senate chamber in the Capitol. He proposed replacing it with a statue of Lois DeBerry, a black woman who became the first female speaker pro tempore of the Tennessee House.

The world's biggest retailer, Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart, sais it is removing any items from its store shelves and website that feature the Confederate flag.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me